Eternal Perspectives

Samuel Rutherford compares our experience in heaven with a bride’s delight on her wedding day. What is it that thrills her most of all? Her dress? The flowers? The guests? None of these. “The bride taketh not, by a thousand degrees, so much delight in her wedding garment as she doth in her bridegroom; so we, in the life to come . . . shall not be so much affected with the glory that goeth about us, as with the bridegroom’s joyful face and presence.”

~ Edward Donnelly, [Biblical Teaching on the Doctrines of Heaven and Hell]

Ponder God’s Gift

Scripture Reading: Revelation 7:1-3

“Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”

~ Revelation 7:3

In our reading today we see another scene unfolding from the opening of the sixth seal. In the previous scene we saw everyone reeling as the foundations of the earth tore apart and people had nowhere to hide. And now we see God’s mighty angels holding back the four winds so that God’s servants can receive his seal of protection. All who have faith in God and the saving power of the Lamb (Jesus) will be spared from the oncoming destruction.

Which group do you identify with? Are you in the company of God’s servants, people who live by faith? Or do you keep trying to run and hide away from God?

The tearing open of creation leaves no uncertainty. When God says the time has come, there will no longer be anywhere to hide. At this point we need to ponder God’s gift of grace. Because of Jesus, we can receive “the seal of the living God,” for he has conquered death and says, “I give them eternal life . . . no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).

God’s seal on us is God’s way of saying, “I am your God; you are my people. I love and care for you more than you will ever understand. I am not here to let destruction come upon you but to give life to all who put their trust in me.” (See John 3:16.)

The gift of God’s seal is yours to embrace—a call and commitment to stand with all who identify as servants of the living God. Prayer: Lord and Savior, your grace and goodness are wide and deep. Thank you for your love and your protective care. Amen.

~ Jim Poelman

Evening Devotional

I was walking down the street recently when I noticed. I don’t always notice. Many times, I’m on my phone reading email or checking Twitter while I walk. Other times, I would have my headphones in listening to a podcast. I count myself lucky that I actually heard what was happening. I looked around for the source, but couldn’t find it. A nice woman across the street interrupted my puzzlement. “Do you see it?” she asked. “It has a bright red head.” I admitted that I didn’t. She pointed me a bit further up the tree I was focusing on. Then I saw it, just pecking away at the tree’s bark.

Now I’m not going to claim that the woodpecker on that day was praising God when it was probably just looking for lunch. What I will claim, though, is that praise is happening throughout all creation if we’ll just notice every once in a while. I was just blessed to notice that day.

~ Byron Vance

Eternal Perspectives

Do you find it odd to think of God as an enthralled lover? Do you feel awkward thinking of Jesus as a suitor intoxicated on love? If so, how else do you explain his actions? Did logic put God in a manger? Did common sense nail him to a cross? . . . 

He came as a prince with his eye on the maiden, ready to battle even the dragon itself if that’s what it took to win her hand. . . . 

You are spoken for. You are engaged, set apart, called out, a holy bride. Forbidden waters hold nothing for you. You have been chosen for his castle. Don’t settle for one-night stands in the arms of a stranger.

Be obsessed with your wedding date. Guard against forgetfulness. Be intolerant of memory lapses. Write yourself notes. Memorize verses. Do whatever you need to do to remember. Aim at what is in heaven. . . . Think only about the things in heaven (Colossians 3:1-2). You are engaged to royalty, and your Prince is coming to take you home.

~ Max Lucado, When Christ Comes

The Souls of Martyrs

Scripture Reading: Revelation 6:9-10

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. – Revelation 6:9

With the opening of the fifth seal, God’s story brings us to the altar where God gathers the souls of followers who have died for their faith in him. The enemy tries to silence believers who are faithful to God’s Word and to put an end to their testimony. Although they can be killed on earth, God keeps their souls safe in heaven. And they are not silent! The souls of the martyrs cry out with the passion of ancient laments to the Lord of all lords (see Psalm 13:1-2; 74:10; 94:3; 119:84).

We may not know the names of the people whom God gathers beneath his altar. But we do know they are the people Jesus acknowledged when he said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me” (Matthew 5:11).

These martyred saints have a special place in God’s design to help us live by faith in his Word. They provide us with a one-of-a-kind, holy witness to what following Christ looks like. Faith is willing to sacrifice to stay true to God.

Give thanks today for the little-known and often unnamed saints who paid and are paying with their lives for being faithful to God. Thank God that the voice of the martyrs is not silenced. “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders . . . and run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).

Prayer:

Thank you, Lord, for the example of the martyrs. Guide us to be your faithful witnesses, we pray. Amen.

~ Jim Poelman

Deaths Doom

Scripture Reading: Revelation 6:7-8

There before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. – Revelation 6:8

The fourth horseman is too ­familiar to us. This picture represents death and grief disrupting our lives. Perhaps you are feeling death’s dreadful presence today. May you be comforted in God’s love and care.

At the time of this writing, the global death count from COVID-19 is over 2 million. The fourth horseman has created another pandemic. Death is always a terrible intruder, regardless of its coming to claim people in large numbers or in the sudden death of a person we love.

The Holy Spirit has given us powerful pictures to embrace for a time such as this. We have the good news of Christ’s coming and of his rising on Easter Sunday morning, announcing death’s defeat. We also have comforting pictures of Jesus grieving with those who mourn. Jesus wept with Mary and Martha over their brother Lazarus’s death (John 11:33-35). Jesus weeps with us too when this rider on the pale horse comes.

Jesus also knows this horseman as his “last enemy to be destroyed” (1 Corinthians 15:26). And God’s great story closes with John announcing, “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’” in which God will “wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain” (Revelation 21:1-4). Hallelujah!

Prayer:

Thank you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for your victory over death for our sake. Comfort us in your promise to put an end to death and to all our grieving. Amen.

~ Jim Poelman